Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

1942: April 18:  Doolittle Raid on Japan

In the first attack of the Japanese mainland during World War II on April 18, 1942, sixteen U.S. Army Air Force B-25B "Mitchell" bombers launched from USS Hornet (CV-8) approximately 600 miles off Japan.  Led by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, the bombers departed earlier than expected due to being discovered by a Japanese guard-boat.   Each bomber had a five-man crew for the Tokyo attack.   Additional U.S. Navy support came with a small surface force led by Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, USN, onboard his flagship USS Enterprise (CV-6). Fifteen of the bombers were lost in the attack, with one landing at Vladivostok, where the Soviets interned the crew.  Flying in darkness towards China after the attack, four bombers crash landed or were ditched offshore, resulting in the loss of three men.  Local residents helped many of the crew, though the Japanese later retaliated against the Chinese.   The Japanese captured eight of the men, and three of those men were executed that October and another captured man died in captivity.   Embarrassed by the attack, the Japanese high command sped-up their debate to attack the U.S. naval base at Midway, leading to the Battle of Midway in June 1942. 

Image:  80-G-41197:  Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942.   USS Hornet (CV-8) launches U.S. Army Air Force B-25B "Mitchell" bomber at the start of the first U.S. air rade on the Japanese home lands, April 18, 1942.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.